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Eighth arrest under Hong Kong's new security law in connection with Chow Hang-tung

Hong Kong police have arrested a 62-year-old man on suspicion of “offences involving seditious intent.” This is the eighth arrest under the new security law in the case of detained human rights activist Chow Hang-tung.

A person holds an electric candle in front of the police cordon around Victoria Park on June 4, 2021. Photo: Jimmy Lam/HKFP.

According to a statement, police arrested the man in Sha Tin on Monday, adding that the man was being held for investigation.

The National Security Police made the first arrests under the Ordinance on Safeguarding National Security, better known as Article 23, last Tuesday. Chow was one of six people arrested in connection with social media posts on a Facebook page called “Chow Hang-tung Club.” A seventh arrest followed on Wednesday.

Police said last Tuesday that the posts took advantage of an “upcoming sensitive date” to incite hatred against the central and Hong Kong governments, as well as the judiciary. Police also claimed that the posts were aimed at luring internet users to organize or participate in illegal activities at a later date.

“As for the sensitive date, I actually think the date itself was not important,” Tang told reporters in Cantonese last Tuesday. “The most important thing is that these people who want to endanger national security took advantage of this issue to incite hatred,” he added.

Chow Hang-tungChow Hang-tung
Chow Hang-tung. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The arrests came ahead of the anniversary of the crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Tuesday marks the 35th anniversary of the crackdown, when the People's Liberation Army dispersed student protests in Beijing, leaving hundreds, if not thousands, of people dead.

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, of which Chow was vice-chairman, organised annual vigils to commemorate the victims of the violent crackdown in Victoria Park until 2020. Then the gathering was banned for epidemic-related reasons in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The vigil was banned in 2021, with police again citing Covid-19 as the reason. The alliance disbanded in September 2021 after its leaders – Chow, Albert Ho and Lee Cheuk-yan – were arrested on suspicion of inciting subversion. There have been no official commemorations since then.

Tiananmen Square Vigil in Victoria ParkTiananmen Square Vigil in Victoria Park
The vigil on Tiananmen Square in Victoria Park on June 4, 2019. Archive photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Police said on Monday that all those arrested last week had been granted bail except Chow, who is being held at the Tai Lam Centre for Women.

According to local media, those arrested on Tuesday included Chow's mother, former Hong Kong Alliance Standing Committee member Lau Ka-yee, former district councillor Katrina Chan, dentist Lee Ying-chi and activist Kwan Chun-pong.

The person arrested on Wednesday was reportedly Kwan's wife, surnamed Poon. The 53-year-old was also suspected of violating Beijing's security law by funding activists such as Nathan Law, who now lives in Britain. She was accused of “providing financial or other support or property to other people to carry out secessionist activities,” police said.

Citing sources, Sing Tao reported that the man arrested on Monday was Chow's uncle.

Article 23 Draft law on national securityArticle 23 Draft law on national security
A draft of Hong Kong's national security law. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Under the city's new security law, crimes related to rioting can carry up to seven years in prison.

Independent of the security law passed in Beijing in 2020, the national security regulation targets treason, sedition, sabotage, external interference, sedition, theft of state secrets and espionage. It allows for pre-trial detention for up to 16 days and suspects' access to lawyers can be restricted. Penalties range from life imprisonment. Article 23 was put on hold in 2003 in the wake of mass protests and remained taboo for years. But on March 23, 2024, it was passed in an expedited procedure and unanimously approved in the opposition-free city parliament.

Human rights NGOs, Western states and the UN have criticized the law as vague, far-reaching and “regressive.” Authorities, on the other hand, have pointed to alleged foreign interference and a constitutional duty to “close loopholes” following protests and unrest in 2019.

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